orange beach gulf shores alabama

Take a dip in the water at Gulf Shores. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Own Your 3-Day Weekend: 5 Top Weekend Getaways in the Southeastern U.S.

The Southeast region of the United States encompasses landscapes of spectacular white sand beaches, rolling mountains, rich marshlands and much more — not to mention vibrant cities with some of the most legendary cooking traditions in the country.

Here are the best weekend getaways to plan right now to make the most of your travels around the Southeast.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

us southeast weekend getaway map
(Illustration: Yeji Kim)

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Florida’s Panhandle beaches tend to hog the sugar-spun-sand spotlight. But travelers who venture just west along the Gulf Coast to Gulf Shores, Alabama, know the beaches here are just as superlative in their 50 shades of turquoise and emerald.

Spend a day soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches or chartering a fishing boat for a chance to hook a redfish, mackerel or trout.

Go birding through scrub habitats and wetlands within the protected coastal barrier island setting of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

Or feast your eyes on one of the most amazing butterfly collections of anywhere at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, dubbed the “Little Zoo That Could” for all the hurricanes it’s weathered.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

sunset at jekyll island
See the sunset at Jekyll Island. (Photo: Getty Images)

Georgia’s coastline — all 110 miles of it — is small but mighty. And Jekyll Island is the crown jewel of these parts if you’re looking for relaxation, cycling paths, long stretches of beaches you can bike on at low tide and nature at every turn.

Rent a kayak to paddle through tidal creeks that are home to herons, ospreys and even manatees, or head out on a boat tour with Jekyll Island Boat Tours to spot pods of resident bottlenose dolphins. Sea turtles rescued from cold snaps and fishing nets get another shot at life at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the only such rehabilitation facility in the state.

And don’t miss a sunset stroll on gorgeous Driftwood Beach, covered to dramatic effect with all sizes of wood branches and logs that have washed in with the tides.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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Watch New Orleans heat up after dark. (Photo: Getty Images)

Beyond the nonstop party vibes of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, New Orleans captivates visitors with its only-here melange of Creole-style architecture, beautiful urban parks (visit City Park for a gander at the largest grove of mature oak trees in the world!) and scenic riverfront along the mighty Mississippi River.

And let’s not forget legendary Creole and Cajun cuisine and live music absolutely everywhere.

Take in some jazz at famous spots like Preservation Hall on Peter Street, as well as in more hideaway haunts like Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro and The Maison. If any city is a moveable feast for all kinds of worldly pleasures, it’s NOLA.

Amelia Island, Florida

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Fine a moment of bliss on Amelia Island. (Photo: Marriott International)

In Florida’s northeasternmost reaches, not far from the Georgia border, Amelia Island makes for a fine weekend getaway loaded with nature, beaches — and a good dose of history and flopping-fresh seafood, too.

Rent a bike for a few hours and head out to pedal miles of forested pathways along the Amelia Island Trail or explore Cumberland Sound and scout for dolphins on a sailing cruise with Windward Sailing.

Dating to the 19th century, the Civil War site, Fort Clinch State Park, is home to a historic fort and maritime hammocks you can hike through under the shadow of enormous live oak trees.

Shrimping boats ply the waters offshore, so wherever you see Florida shrimp on the menu — Timoti’s in Fernandina Beach is a favorite spot — be sure to dig in.

Asheville, North Carolina


Cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, home to a riverfront arts district with more than 240 studios open to the public and lauded for having one of the most exciting culinary scenes in all of the South, Asheville knows how to charm a visitor.

Will you dine on authentic tapas and sip Spanish wine inside a converted 1920s bus station at Cúrate, or is a hearty Southern brunch of biscuits and gravy at Sunny Point Café more your style? Asheville caters to all kinds of outdoor aficionados, too, with challenging hikes at Chimney Rock State Park, mountain biking at Mount Pisgah or leisurely strolls around the grounds and gardens of the spectacular Biltmore Estate.